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Are you trying to get more organised in the kitchen? Trying to eat healthier or wanting to reduce waste and save money. If so, meal planning could be for you.
Meal planning may sound complicated but it really isn’t. The most important thing is to take the time to plan properly so that you have a meal plan that you can stick to and what your family will enjoy eating. If you have never planned your meals ahead of time this easy 8 step guide on how to create a meal plan is for you.
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is basically planning all your meals in advance. Essentially what your going to eat for breakfast lunch and dinner for the next week or so.
Meal planning is a great way to reduce waste, help you save money on your grocery bill and save you time trying to figure out what to eat for dinner.
Meal planning is also beneficial for those who need to keep to a specialised diet. It can also help you stay accountable for your health or fitness goals.
Why meal plan?
As I’ve already mentioned meal planning can reduce waste and save money as well as helping you stick to your health and fitness goals. Heres how:
Saving money – The amount of times I’ve gone food shopping and bought all kinds of food that I think I’m going to eat. The fridge ends up full to the brim only to be full of food that has gone off or past its use by date a week or so later. The amount of food wasted this way is astounding. In fact a study in the UK revealed that the average UK household wasted £355.68 worth of food every year!
By creating a meal plan you can create a shopping list that ensures you only buy what you are likely to eat, both saving you money and reducing waste.
Saving time – We have all been in this all to common situation. Getting home after a stressful day at work and having to decide what to cook for dinner. You check the cupboards and the freezer and you just can’t decide or you think of something then realise you are missing some ingredients. How frustrated do you feel?
By planning meals in advance you can simply just get home and you already know what to cook saving you time and energy trying to sort something out.
Save you sanity – Trying to figure out what to cook each night can become extremely stressful. Especially so, if you have a large family or picky eaters to keep satisfied.
Instead, you can have a discussion with all your family members and create a meal plan together. This way you won’t be met with everyone wanting something different and having to negotiate what to cook.
Keeps you accountable – If you are trying to loose weight, get fitter or healthier, sticking to a meal plan can help you reach your goals.
Making a meal plan that you will enjoy as well as in line with your health goals is a really important. This way you are more likely to stick to it and won’t be tempted with unhealthy snacks or your favourite fast food outlet.
How to create a meal plan:
So you want to try out meal planning but don’t know where to start?
A successful meal plan isn’t just plucking out a few random meals onto a sheet of paper, you have to put in a little effort in the begining for it to work.
Here’s my 10 simple steps to create a great meal plan that the whole family will enjoy. If done properly, you will wonder how you ever coped without one!
Click here to download my free meal planning worksheets.
When creating a meal plan the first step is to make sure to plan ahead. This way you can really create a meal plan that the whole family will enjoy. You might also start to enjoy the process.
Do you have any special events coming up? Do the kids have any after school activities? By organising your meal plan around your calendar you can add extra portions, ensure busy days have easy prep meals or skip a few meals if necessary.
For days when you need some quick meals why don’t you cook in advance and freeze until needed. Soups, curries and pasta dishes are all easy meals that can be popped in the freezer. One pot or slow cooker recipes are also great ideas for when you are short of time.
Does anyone in the family have any special dietary requirements? Is there a way to incorporate these requirements into the meal plan without having to cook separate meals.
Do you need to stick to a budget? If so, break down your budget in to weekly amounts and try and stick to it. For example, if your monthly grocery budget is £400 then try and stick to less than £100 a week. As you get better at creating meal plans you will probably find that you are spending less on groceries as the weeks go by.
Tip – When shopping, look out for sales and offers. Try and stock up on regular use dry foodstuffs like pasta, rice and tinned products. Also keep a look out for fresh meat on offer that could potentially be frozen for future use.
Before making a meal plan check what you already have in your cupboards. Try to make use of these items before they go off or spoil. This also stops you from buying items that you already have on your shelves.
There are all sorts of ways that you can research recipes these days. You can check your favourite cook books, the internet or even social media. I personally use Pinterest as you can literally search for anything. Budget recipes, batch cooking, meal plans, low calorie and high protein meals, the list is endless!
When picking out meals, choose those that incorporate items you already have at home and what you know the family will enjoy. Try not to pick out anything too elaborate, instead choose meals that are tasty and easy to make.
You could however have a few special meals planned for certain days of the week. How about a themed or a fake away night, cooking your favourite take away meals from scratch at home.
A few more tips on creating a perfect meal plan:
Choose meals that provide leftovers – If you plan on cooking a piece of beef on Sunday, use the leftovers for a curry on Monday. Likewise if cooking rice dish, cook more and use the leftovers for lunch the following day.
Cook what you know – When starting off, choose meals that you already know and love. As you get used to creating meal plans you can then start to incorporate more complex recipes.
Use common ingredients – Make use of common ingredients and seasonal produce. These items are usually more abundant therefore better value for money.
Make a list
Once you have your meal plan, write down a shopping list. This way you will only buy what you need and reduce waste and save money. Try to organise your list by aisle or store, that way you will save time as well.
If you are one for normally adding all those great looking offers into your trolly then why not shop online instead. Most of the UK based retailers all offer online shopping with free delivery if spending over a certain amount. This way you will only buy what you actually need.
Stick to it
You have your meal plan and you’ve been shopping. All that’s left is to actually stick to the plan!
Even if you are struggling to stick to a meal plan don’t give up. Think about why your current meal plan is hard to maintain? Is there something you could change next time around?
If you change a few meals every now and again its not the end of the world. At the end of the day its whatever works best for you and your family.
Creating a meal plan isn’t for everyone, however for those who wish to simplify their life and make meal times less stressful they are a great option.
Just remember to stick to foods that you and the rest of the family will enjoy, that are easy to make and meet your health and fitness goals.
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Thanks for reading,
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